(Part 4) A Call To Exalt The Lord As King And Righteous Judge Of All The Earth
By Pastor Robbie Casas
c. The Reasons for the First Call to Worship and to Proclaim (vv. 4-6)
Read Ps 96:4-6:
4 For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
First of all, God is to be worshipped because of His greatness: “4 For great is the Lord and greatly to
be praised.” The greatness of all His attributes and abilities and of all His works is both unequaled and immeasurable. Ps 135:5: “For I know that the Lord is great and that our Lord is above all gods.” Ps 145:3: “Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable.”
That is why He is also referred to as “the Most High” in many places in Scripture. Ps 7:17: “I will give thanks… and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.” Ps 83:18: “That they may know that You alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.” Ps 97:9: “For You are the Lord Most High over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods.” THERE IS NONE HIGHER THAN HE.
Secondly, because of His greatness, “He is to be feared above all gods.” From the perspective of God’s people, God “is to be feared” – profoundly revered – “above all gods.” From the perspective of “all the peoples”, God “is to be feared” – dreaded – “above all gods.” Again, the stress here is God’s being greater than “all gods.” This is not an affirmation of polytheism but actually a denial of it, as the next verse confirms.
We are told in v. 5a why: “For all the gods of the peoples are idols.” Here the psalmist is contrasting God with the lifeless idols of the nations.
The Heb. word translated “idols”(אֱלִילִים,’elilim, literally means “good for nothing, vain, no value, worthless, specifically an idol”) sounds like the Heb. word for “gods” (אֱלֹהִים, ‘elohim). The sound play draws attention to the statement (NET Bible Notes). Ps 115:4-8 confirms their lifelessness and therefore their worthlessness: “4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of man’s hands. 5 They have mouths, but they cannot speak; they have eyes, but they cannot see; 6 They have ears, but they cannot hear; they have noses, but they cannot smell; 7 They have hands, but they cannot feel; they have feet, but they cannot walk; they cannot make a sound with their throat. 8 Those who make them will become like them, everyone who trusts in them.”
On the other hand, v. 5b provides a contrast: “But the Lord made the heavens.” In contrast to the false and lifeless gods of the pagans, Jehovah is the Creator of all things. The psalmist used “the heavens” to point to a much larger expanse than the whole earth (and which actually includes, as we know, our planet). And as Creator, He is the Giver of Life, being the source of all life Himself. What a contrast! The Lord is infinitely superior to the dead idols of the heathen nations because He alone is God! That is why “He is to be feared above all gods.”
In v. 6 the psalmist further develops the description of “the Lord” who “made the heavens,” giving more reason for why God is to be worshipped and praised: “Splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” NASB Study Bible makes this interesting observation: “Two pairs of divine attributes personified as throne attendants whose presence before the Lord heralds the exalted nature of the one, universal King.”
Three words here in Heb. are synonyms – “splendor,” “majesty,” “beauty” – and can be described in one word: glory. So basically, “glory” here is paired with “strength” (see also v. 7). David used this pairing in Ps 29:1: “… Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.”
The word “strength” can also be translated as “power”. David again often used this pairing. 1Chron 29:11: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty….” Ps 63:2: “Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.” Ps 145:11: “They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and talk of Your power.”
So the psalmist was describing God’s temple (“sanctuary”, where God’s presence was in the midst of His people) as characterized by glory and strength (cf. 96:7). In other words, God is glorious and strong in the midst of His people. This is why He is to be feared, to be praised, to be worshipped.
For us NT believers, let us remember that we are now God’s temple in which His Holy Spirit dwells (1Cor 6:19-20). And in us, God is glorious and strong.